Mama’s Chicken Kitchen review: How they saved me from hanger

Mama's Chicken Kitchen and JOE and Pop's Sub Shoppe share a single convenient location close to the main strip in Gatlinburg, Tenn. (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)
Mama's Chicken Kitchen and JOE and Pop's Sub Shoppe share a single convenient location close to the main strip in Gatlinburg, Tenn. (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

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I made a rookie mistake and I am ashamed of myself.

As someone who grew up in East Tennessee, I know how crowded Gatlinburg can get on the weekends. Especially holiday weekends. 

But for some bizarre reason when my husband and I rented a cabin for the July 4th weekend and made plans to “just pick up some dinner” on the way into town on Friday night, there were no internal alarm bells going off. I blame it on temporary amnesia. 

After sitting in traffic for nearly an hour, the hanger was starting to set in. With these crowds, we knew take-out would be our only option. 

“No problem!” says my spousal unit, “We need to pick up a few supplies for the cabin anyway. Let’s just stop at Old Dad’s, grab some groceries and a couple of deli sandwiches!” 

“Great idea!” I replied.

We made it to Old Dad’s General Store at 5:05 pm. The deli closed at 5 pm. 

I can’t exactly blame Old Dad’s for my lack of planning. Old Dad’s is a staple in the area and the first to step up for the community in times of crisis.

Read More: Area restaurants provide free meals to kids during the 2020 public health crisis

But weird dining hours, in my opinion, are oddly commonplace for an area that relies so heavily on tourism dollars. Most of the breakfast places around here close at 1 pm. Several restaurants close at 5 pm. Who even eats dinner that early? 

It drives me nuts, but I digress.

“What about No Way Jose’s?” asks my patient husband. 

“Ok,” I reply hangerly. 

We call No Way Jose’s to place a takeout order and are told that they don’t take call in orders. They tell us that we will need to come in and order from the bar in person. 

We get back in the car and 30 minutes later we’ve traveled almost exactly .3 miles to No Way Jose’s. (Gotta love holiday traffic)

After waiting another 15 minutes at the bar, I’m finally able to flag someone down about placing an order for takeout.

“Did you call it in?” asks the bartender, giving me the impression I had been lied to over the phone. 

The bartender then walks away without saying another word, after a few more minutes of waiting, I return to the car empty handed. 

Hanger level at this point is at a 9. 

“Mama’s Chicken Kitchen lets you place a mobile order on their website!” my husband says out of fear that I will begin nibbling on the rental car’s upholstery if I don’t get some food in my belly soon. 

We placed the order, drove to Mama’s Chicken Kitchen, and that’s when something miraculous happened… my hot and fresh food was sitting there waiting on me, on time, as promised.

In fact, I was so impressed with Mama’s Chicken Kitchen, not only did I decide it was deserving of a formal review, but we even went back two days later to test drive J.O.E. & Pop’s Sub Shoppe. 

That’s right – today you’re getting a two for one review! It’s a BOGO!

The order/pick up line counter inside Mama's Chicken Kitchen (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)
The order/pick up line counter inside Mama’s Chicken Kitchen (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

About Mama’s Chicken Kitchen and J.O.E. & Pop’s Sub Shoppe

Mama’s Chicken Kitchen and J.O.E. & Pop’s Sub Shoppe are part of the Johnson Family of Restaurants. This is the same restaurant group who also owns Big Daddy’s Pizzeria, Bennett’s Pit Bar-B-Que, Alamo Steakhouse, Mama’s Farmhouse and Mad Dog’s Creamery and Donuts.

Mama’s Chicken Kitchen and J.O.E. & Pop’s Sub Shoppe are two unique food concepts that share a single location. When you walk in, you’ll find the ordering line and order pick-up area on the right, and the dining area on the left. 

It may be important to note, at the time of this review, this restaurant is seating at reduced 50% capacity due to 2020 safety guidelines as suggested by the Tennessee Pledge. Employees are wearing face masks and hand sanitizer is available at the counter.

Despite the reduced capacity, the dining room was not overly crowded and the order line was not excessively long. But when in hanger doubt, you may just want to order takeout. These are weird times. 

During the month of July, this location will be closed every Thursday to give employees a much needed break. 

Speaking of location, Mama’s Chicken Kitchen and J.O.E. & Pop’s Sub Shoppe are conveniently located close to the main strip in Downtown Gatlinburg yet away from the busy crowds near the Arts and Crafts loop. It is unfortunately not very walkable. 

Read More: Select Sevier County restaurants to close one day a week due impacts of COVID-19

I ordered the chicken and dumplins with mac and cheese and creamed corn (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)
I ordered the chicken and dumplins with mac and cheese and creamed corn (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

The food at Mama’s Chicken Kitchen

As the name would suggest, Mama’s Chicken Kitchen offers a variety of chicken-fried southern classics. Selections include: 2-3 piece chicken meals, buckets, wings, grilled chicken and of course, chicken and dumplins. They also offer a vegetarian plate for those non-meat eaters in the family. 

Each meal comes with two small sides and a biscuit.

I ordered the chicken and dumplins and my husband ordered the chicken tenders. We selected creamed corn and mac and cheese for our sides. 

Both orders came with giant southern-style buttermilk biscuits.

The chicken and dumplins are probably the best I’ve had in Gatlinburg. You would think good chicken and dumplins in this part of town are common. But my friends, there are unfortunately a lot of imposters around these parts. REAL southern style chicken and dumplins are hard to find. This particular dish tasted homemade with large chunky pieces of quality chicken.

Read More: Unpopular Opinion: The good, the bad, and the ‘just ok’ — A review of Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen

My husband’s chicken tenders were HUGE! The 4-piece meal was more than enough to satisfy his hungry tummy. And much like the chicken and dumplins, this dish also tasted homemade and home-breaded. This isn’t your normal tourist-town fare. 

This picture does not do these portion sizes justice - both the tenders and the biscuit are larger than life (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)
This picture does not do these portion sizes justice – both the tenders and the biscuit are larger than life (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

The mac and cheese was insanely delicious. This dish features quality cheese, a smooth creamy texture and no funny business: Just cheese, noodles, salt and light pepper. Mac and cheese is a dish that’s already perfect – we don’t need your fancy bread crumbs and truffle oil here in the south. Keep it simple people.

The creamed corn had a great taste, but we both agreed it was a tad watered down. But then again, we are spoiled. My husband’s aunt once owned a corn farm. We’re used to some pretty tasty homemade fresh creamed corn. So take our picky corn critique with a grain of salt.

Now let’s have a serious conversation about my favorite part of the meal – the biscuits. Biscuits come with each meal unless you opt to leave them out. But to leave them out would be a sin. 

These biscuits are hands down the best biscuits I’ve ever had in my life. Which for a southern girl born and raised – is high praise. These biscuits are without a doubt homemade from scratch. They are as fluffy as they can be, buttery throughout and not overly flaky – the way God intended. They have the kind of consistency that just melts in your mouth.

Honestly, I would return to this restaurant just based on the quality of the biscuits alone. 

Pictured here: a chicken salad sub, a roast beef italian sub, french fries, chicken and dumplins and an invisible chocolate chip cookie (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)
Pictured here: a chicken salad sub, a roast beef Italian sub, french fries, chicken and dumplins and an invisible chocolate chip cookie (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

The food at J.O.E. & Pop’s Sub Shoppe

Two days after enjoying Mama’s Chicken Kitchen, we went back to try to the subs.

As I mentioned earlier, J.O.E. & Pop’s Sub Shoppe is a second dining concept that shares the same building as Mama’s Chicken Kitchen, and you can mix and match as you please. Half your party want fried chicken but the other half craving hand crafted sub sandwiches? No problem, this combination restaurant has you covered!

J.O.E. & Pop’s Sub Shoppe offers a variety of subs, sandwiches and hot dogs including but not limited to: Philly cheesesteak, chicken cheesesteak, Italian roast beef, chicken salad and veggie.

What’s great about J.O.E. & Pop’s Sub Shoppe is that they allow you to customize your subs as much or as little as you please. Customizations include extra meat, and your choice of toppings and cheese. You can even choose whether or not you want your sub to be hot, cold or steamed. 

You can select from two sizes when ordering these subs – the 6″ JOE or the 11″ POP. 

This time, I ordered the 6″ roast beef Italian sub and my husband ordered the 6″ chicken salad.

For our sides, we went the healthy route: French fries, chocolate chip cookies and banana pudding.

My Italian sub was tasty. The meat was shaved deli style and the seasoning was just right. I opted to add peppers for a little extra kick. 

A "next level" chicken salad sub (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)
A “next level” chicken salad sub (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

My husband described his chicken salad sub as being “next level.” After that rave review, curiosity got the best of me, so I stole a bite. I have to say, his review is valid – it’s pretty incredible. In fact, I really think as far as ordering was concerned he was the clear winner here. 

The banana pudding didn’t exactly strike me as southern-style. I grew up eating homemade banana pudding with whipped meringue on top, which this dish was lacking. All the same, the end result was pretty spectacular and all the right flavors were there.

I couldn’t tell you about the chocolate chip cookies because they left those out of my order – but they looked tasty in the pictures. Incorrect orders are always a risk when opting for takeout. Do as I say and not as I do – check your order before you leave the parking lot.

You owe me J.O.E. and Pop’s, but I’ll forgive you this time because you rocked my socks off in every other way.

Mama’s Kitchen and J.O.E. and Pop’s location and hours

Mama’s Kitchen and J.O.E. and Pop’s Sub Shoppe are located at 1244 East Pkwy, Gatlinburg, TN 37738. They offer both dine in-and carry-out and feature a kid-friendly casual atmosphere.

Kids menus with smaller portion sizes are also available.

Regular hours are 11 am – 10 pm, Monday-Friday. As mentioned above, during the month of July, this particular location will be closed on Thursdays. To order online, or for more information about either of these amazing dining concepts, visit mamaschickenkitchen.com.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any mentioned business, and have not been reviewed or endorsed these entities. Contact us at [email protected] for questions or comments.

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